Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) speaks during an August 2017 groundbreaking ceremony in Hyattsville for a Light Rail project in Prince George's County. Brown is running for reelection. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)
Columnist

At a recent town hall meeting in Prince George’s County, Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) was asked, “Do you think Trump will be impeached?”

It was a political softball, one that Brown should have knocked out of the park considering his audience of Democratic voters, many of whom have been outspoken in their anger about the policies coming from the current administration — and the man behind them.

“I don’t think that the president will be impeached, and I’ll tell you why,” said Brown, a Harvard law graduate and retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. “Impeachment, regardless of what party you’re in, and who the president is at the time, that is a weighty matter and it rises to the level of potential constitutional crisis.”

You’d think he was speaking to a high school civics class, not a group of voters looking for answers on what they can do to get family and friends out to the polls so they can get President Trump out of the White House.

Brown’s response may have been technically correct, but it could have used a little sprucing up. The midterms are drawing near, and Democrats and Republicans both are looking to see which voters will be fired up enough to turn out.

The meeting was in Oxon Hill, at the southern tip of Brown’s safely gerrymandered, predominantly black and Democratic 4th Congressional District. I live in the area. There is no reason for him to play it so safe around here.

The problem of playing it safe seems peculiar to Democrats, however — at least the establishment ones. They are technically competent, but unable to inspire an appropriate voter turnout. Brown should know this better than anyone.

In Prince George’s County, which is Brown’s home turf, there are about 451,000 registered Democrats and about 40,000 registered Republicans. In the 2014 race for governor that pitted Brown, a two-term lieutenant governor, and odds-on favorite against Republican businessman Larry Hogan, only 175,000 Prince George’s residents cast a vote for Brown.

Statewide, Hogan garnered 851,366 votes to Brown’s 774,383. For want of roughly 77,000 votes, Brown would now be Maryland’s first black governor. But many in his party said he ran a lackluster campaign.

Brown made a comeback in 2016, winning a seat in Congress, and in June ran for reelection unopposed in the Democratic primary. He should be a shoo-in to win the general election in November. But this time, he’s taking nothing for granted.

He’s working hard, making himself available to residents and media alike. Doing what Hogan did to beat him in 2014. As an incumbent, Brown can probably hold on to that seat for as long as he likes. Unless he keeps giving bummer answers at town hall meetings.

A resident asked Brown: “Please describe your efforts to mobilize constituents to contact relatives and friends in the home districts of the seven senators most likely to cross party lines and vote against Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court?”

Brown conceded that the appointment of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh would “change the balance of power” on the high court but added: “Now in this official town hall, I can’t really tell you how to advocate and mobilize. We’ve seen how communities around the country can be effective and I suspect a similar mobilization will occur.”

Another resident asked: “What will be the Democrats’ ability to reverse what the Republicans have done if Democrats take over in November?”

Brown’s answer: Tax-reform reversal unlikely. Probably no changes in cuts to social programs.

“There’s been no example in the past 10 years of a bipartisan vote in the House for major health care, so I’m not optimistic. I’m aspirational,” he said.

If the Republicans were the party of no, it sure sounded like the Democrats were the party of can’t.

A resident said: “Taxes are extremely high in Prince George’s County; I won’t send my kids to the public schools. I work in Virginia and I can see the difference in the quality of life over there versus two miles away over here. So why should I continue to support the Democratic Party?”

“So I’m a different type of Democrat in that regards,” Brown answered. “You shouldn’t be supporting the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. You should be supporting those candidates, Democrats or Republican, that you think are delivering for you and your family.

“I don’t want to get into a debate,” he added, “but when you talk about Maryland not being properly administered, we’ve got a Republican governor who may well get a second term.”

Little wonder why.

Brown had missed a chance to make his case for himself or his party. Status quo is not what these politically trying times call for.

Given the outrage from many Democrats over Trump’s behavior and misdirected policies, he could have helped his constituents see the impact they could have on the upcoming elections. He didn’t have to draw up the articles of impeachment, but he could have emphasized what’s at stake if Republicans remain in control of the White House and Congress.

Use any means to get the voters involved, now. Send them off fired up, and ready to make sure friends and family do their civic duty as well.

But don’t leave them depressed because they belong to a political party that only complains about not being able to get funding or votes from Republicans.

If a town hall in a community that is made up of some of the Democrats’ most loyal voters is not laser-focused on getting out the vote, you have to wonder: What’s the point?

 To read previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/milloy.